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UFC Fight Night 46 predictions

Jared Wickerham

The Conor McGregor show has finally arrived in Ireland and as far as Fight Pass shows are concerned, this one could not be hotter. It's arguably the biggest and most important Fight Pass show in the online streaming subscription service's admittedly brief history.

McGregor could be the next big thing in the UFC and an essential ingredient in helping the UFC push further in Europe. To help him on this card, Iceland's Gunnar Nelson is along for the ride as is England's Brad Pickett. The preliminary card is filled with largely insignificant bouts featuring mostly (albeit not exclusively) regional-level talent.

Will McGregor live up to the hype or is Diego Brandao going to spoil the party? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.

What: UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao (UFC Fight Night 46)

Where: The O2, Dublin, Ireland

When: Saturday, the six-fight Fight Pass card starts at 12:30 p.m. ET and the four-fight main card starts on Fight Pass at 3 p.m. ET.

Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao

This is a respectable test for McGregor at this juncture in his career. Brandao has decent takedowns, underrated jiu-jitsu, strong punching power and moves forward throughout the course of a fight. Yet, he doesn't consistently chain pieces of his offense together and creates openings in his unbridled aggression. That's precisely where McGregor is going to find his path to victory. I wouldn't be surprised if McGregor is taken down or hit with a big punch (or several) before the referee is forced to intervene. The Brazilian's skills have to be acknowledged. He's absolutely not a pushover. Yet, he is the very type of fighter who polished competitors feast on the longer a round or bout goes. McGregor, at least in parts, has shown a willingness to move a bout along, attacking when he should, but doing so by taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. That's what should happen here.

Pick: McGregor

Gunnar Nelson vs. Zak Cummings

I don't know that it will, but this fight could prove to be a bit of a closer contest than some realize. Cummings has fought as high as light heavyweight. He's a much more conventional talent, but has dogged determination and is physically large, even for welterweight. He's proactive on offense and even if he lacks the polish and finesse of someone like Nelson, never underestimate force of will.

That said, this is a manageable task for Nelson. He'll need to stay off of the fence and if he finds himself underneath Cummings, either sweep or stand as soon as possible. A touch of guard play is fine, but nothing lengthy. And as long as this stays on the feet, Nelson should be able to light Cummings up with his sideways stance and rangey jab. Still, don't be surprised to see Cummings attacking quite a bit. They might be predictable and orthodox, but the pressure of them has to be respected.

Pick: Nelson

Brad Pickett vs. Ian McCall

Like many others, I just don't know about Pickett at flyweight. He doesn't have the speed he needs to keep up with the guys who more naturally make the weight class. His wrestling was good at bantamweight and enough to get past Neil Seery, but McCall is a different beast entirely. Pickett is the more technical striker of the two, but McCall's speed should be the x-factor here. In addition, I don't see how Pickett will be able to lord his smothering top control over a grappler and scrambler as capable as the American. This one could be close, but McCall has more than enough tools to get it done.

Pick: McCall

Norman Parke vs. Naoyuki Kotani

Kotani has a ton of experience and probably more capable of winning than some might realize, but is ultimately something of a gimmicky grappler. He has decent takedowns, but is the sort of submission threat that often lacks positioning. Can't pass your guard? No problem, Kotani will just sit back for an ankle lock. That stuff works on lesser opposition, but no one prepared or particularly good. Parke should the physically fresher of the two and, if smart, will use massive advantage on the feet to bust up the Japanese war horse en route to a clean decision or stoppage.

Pick: Parke

From the preliminary card:

Ilir Latifi def. Chris Dempsey
Phil Harris def. Neil Seery
Cathal Pendred def. Mike King
Tor Troeng def. Trevor Smith
Cody Donovan def. Nikita Krylov
Josh Sampo def. Patrick Holohan

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